Quora: Left against Leninism

For some time I have participated in the website quora.com. Participants ask one another questions, offer answers to questions proposed by others, and comment on others' answers. Those who wish also create spaces to attract people interested in different topics. 

Many left-wing spaces have appeared on Quora in recent years, reflecting an increasing interest in alternatives to capitalism. However, I was concerned to discover that among them are spaces that deny, downplay, excuse or justify the slave labor camps, blood purges, man-made famines, and other atrocities committed by the Stalin and Mao regimes.

What disturbs me is not the mere existence of such spaces or even the fact that some have quite large numbers of followers, but their acceptance by the administrators of many other left-wing spaces who are willing to collaborate with them and clearly regard them as being “on the same side.”

In terms of the scale of human suffering involved, the atrocities of Leninist-Stalinist-Maoist regimes are comparable to the Holocaust and other Nazi atrocities. It is surely just as important to combat their denial as it is to combat Holocaust denial.

This is not to deny the achievements of Stalin and Mao. But Hitler and Mussolini had achievements too. Hitler sharply reduced unemployment. He introduced the “people’s car” and built motorways. Mussolini drained marshlands for cultivation and made trains run on time. But we do not accept their achievements as excuses for their crimes. Nor should we accept achievements made under the Stalin and Mao regimes as excuses for their crimes.

One extremely harmful result of the failure to denounce Stalinist and Maoist atrocities from the point of view of authentic socialist values is that such denunciation becomes a monopoly of the right. Right-wing writers use these crimes as arguments in defense of capitalism by attributing them to socialism as such rather than to specific political structures. This is the hell you will end up in if you overthrow capitalism! This is, of course, sheer hypocrisy. It erases the comparable atrocities of capitalism itself, from the genocide and enslavement of indigenous people in the colonies to the cruel exploitation of the labor of young children in the mills and mines.

Why then are so many leftists, especially perhaps American leftists, willing to accept and collaborate with apologists for Stalinist, Maoist, and other Leninist regimes?

One reason, surely, is the ethos of left unity and solidarity. In the immediate context of American society and politics, the various strands that make up the “left” are indeed on the same side. Too harshly attacking others supposed to be on the left is felt to be disreputable and unwise, especially in the face of a perceived common threat from fascist forces. It is widely believed that the division between “communists” (i.e., Stalinists) and social democrats in Weimar Germany contributed to the Nazi conquest of power, perhaps crucially. Again, the legacy of McCarthyism and the Cold War has bestowed on American communists the moral status of unjustly persecuted dissidents. Denouncing them, for whatever reason, places you in the ranks of the persecutors.

All this has to do with the local American context. It has nothing to do with Russia, China, or other distant countries. But it is this local and national context that matters the most to most people, including most “communists.” Reading autobiographies of rank-and-file American “communists,” I am struck by how little they say about the Soviet Union. Some do not mention it at all. And in the American context the Communist Party has played a big role in the struggle for social progress. In particular, for a long time it was the only political force actively assisting black people in their fight for equal rights (see Vivian Gornick, The Romance of American Communism).

Yet however understandable the reasons for not dealing forthrightly with the issue of “communist” atrocities, it is essential that we do so. Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to relive it. True, there is already a vast literature on this subject. But new generations are coming to maturity who rely almost exclusively on the internet for their information. Few ever read a book.

So I decided to create a new space entitled Left Against Leninism to expose the anti-socialist nature of Leninism and all Leninist regimes. Please help me in this work by looking at the post I put up and posting comments. Please become a follower. If you would like to contribute posts yourself, please get in touch with me at < This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. >.